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April 1, 2023

Calls to close Alstonville’s bitumen plant as council approves more housing

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Boral bitumen plant in Alstonville. Photo supplied.

An attempt to overturn approval for a sub-division on a property in Teven near the Boral bitumen batching plant was lost 5–4 at the Ballina Council meeting on April 26.

‘I’m quite shocked that Ballina Council has given approval for this subdivision given the proximity to Boral’s bitumen batching plant,’ said Cr Jeff Johnson.

‘This development is practically across the road. There have been numerous reports of nose bleeds, nausea, headaches, etc from the fumes and odours from this operation which is classified as ‘heavy industry’ right on Alstonville’s door step.’

However, Ballina mayor David Wright, who supported the sub-division has said that this is part of the ‘recently approved Alstonville Strategic Plan that was created with community consultation.’

‘That section of Asltonville has the potential for growth. The developer could have put 14 lots on it but only put ten. This is a change to the dynamic of the area which previously had big blocks with lots of trees.’

Mayor Wright has also pointed out that he previously lived in the area and had no problems with the smell.

‘Some people say it stinks and others say no it doesn’t – it is mainly at night and I think that some people perceive it differently.’

Locals disagree

Local resident Tyrone Mcgillick has said the when the site development application (DA) was originally approved for operation in 1995 it was for a relocatable facility and that amendments to the DA have increased the localised impact of the bitumen plant.

‘There have been three amendments,’ said Mr Mcgillick.

‘The first was for a permanent structure, the next for working at night and finally for bringing aggregate onto the site for processing. The original justification for the locating the plant at this site was that there was aggregate on site, but that is no longer the case.’

Mr Mcgillick has highlighted the changing nature of the area as council has approved more residential housing near the bitumen plant.

‘The plant is no longer compatible with being on the edge of town,’ he said.

‘We’ve seen a recent serge in approvals on Teven Road and there are trucks that drive on the road throughout the night. Nobody is allowed to mow their lawn at 2 or 3am and I think we are also entitled to a good nights sleep.’

Boral bitumen plant in the background. Photo supplied

Smell overwhelming

Councillor Johnson has said that he has ‘personally experienced the strong smell of bitumen inside a local resident’s home. The bitumen smell was overwhelming despite all the windows and doors being closed.’

‘My position has a focus on the health and well-being of our local residents and those looking to move to this area. It is not an anti-development position per se. If the batching plant wasn’t operating so close to the proposed subdivision then I accept that the zoning would allow a subdivision of this size to be considered,’ said Councillor Johnson.

‘But the Bitumen plant is there and Council needs to accept the impact it has on the local area and not support new subdivisions within the recommended buffer zone.’

‘What exacerbates the impact on local residents is the fact that Council has given approval for the bitumen plant to operate all night for up to 60 nights per year. It’s my understanding that this is the only operation in the state that has been allowed to operate 24 hours per day.’

Mayor Wright has acknowledged that there may be some concerns over the site operation and smell and told Echonetdaily that the EPA is now working with Boral to reduce the impact on residents.

‘I full confidence that whatever the EPA stipulates Boral will do,’ said Mr Mcgillick.

‘However, the EPA is weak and they rely on the community to report breaches and lodge complaints. For instance the EPA is happy with the noise management but the plant is licensed to operate heavy machinery from 6am to 6pm six days a week and this doesn’t take account of the truck movements that occur throughout the night.’

Boral’s lease on the Ballina Shire quarry is up for renewal next year and councillor Johnson is calling for it to be moved so that it is ‘located away from the encroaching residential area’.

Mr Mcgillick agrees and says that the goal of the 60 or so families in the area is to have the plant relocated.

‘We’ve been trying to work with council behind the scenes for years,’ he said.

‘But we are at a junction where we might have to consider taking legal action. What we are trying to achieve is a fair outcome for all.’

If you would like to find out more on the Alstonville asphalt watch website.

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